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HS boys’ basketball: Carlinville outlasts Staunton for third place at holiday tournament

The Bunker Hill High School boys’ basketball team celebrates after defeating Gillespie, 71-69, on a game-winning buzzer beater in the seventh place game of the Carlinville Holiday Tournament Dec. 29. The victory was Bunker Hill’s first since Nov. 22. Photo contributed.


Bunker Hill stuns Gillespie at the buzzer

Enquirer Democrat Reporter

Through many thrills and spills, the wins kept coming for the Carlinville High School boys’ basketball team at its home holiday tournament last week.

Although they didn’t finish on top, the Cavaliers took another step in the right direction by earning a hard-fought third place ranking with three victories in four games.

Carlinville dismantled Gillespie, 62-36, to open the tournament Dec. 26. Then, it was all aboard the crazy train.

That crazy train went off the rails the next night as the Cavaliers lost their shot at a championship berth by losing to eventual runner-up Litchfield, 54-35, Dec. 27. While Carlinville managed to win the second half, a 28-7 hole proved to deep to dig out of after the Cavaliers had shot an abysmal 1-for-26 from the field to open the game.

Carlinville seemed to be hurdling toward disaster again the next day but managed to turn the corner despite giving the ball away 28 times against East Alton Wood River. To make matters even more topsy turvy, the Cavaliers started the night on a 13-0 run but instantly squandered that advantage in a matter of minutes. The visiting Oilers stunned Carlinville with a 28-8 second quarter run and had all the momentum on their side leading 33-25 at halftime. However, the same resiliency that yielded a thrilling upset win over South County once again resurfaced for the Cavaliers when they needed it most. Carlinville rallied, forced overtime and closed pool play with a 67-62 victory, setting the stage for a highly-anticipated third place duel against blossoming rival Staunton.

In their first meeting of the season, the Cavaliers and Bulldogs battled down to the wire. Staunton led 28-24 at the half, then Carlinville grabbed a four-point lead of its own at 42-38 heading into the final two minutes of the fourth quarter. After the Cavaliers had failed to add insurance at the free throw line, All-Tournament honoree Braden Buffington buried a clutch three with 1:10 left to bring Staunton back within one. 30 seconds later, the Bulldogs fouled Tate Duckels, who split a pair of free tosses for Carlinville. Staunton aggressively went for another triple and the lead on the ensuing possession but came up empty-handed. With 25 seconds left, Matt Dunn drew a foul for the Cavaliers and connected on a key free throw to make it 44-41. Staunton attempted to draw up a game-tying play out of a timeout but Dave Suits elected to have Carlinville intentionally foul Aaron Bodner with 6.4 seconds remaining on the clock. Following a crucial miss by Bodner at the stripe, Triston Thompson knocked down two bonus free throws to seal the deal on a 46-42 victory with three seconds left.

Dominic Alepra led a balanced CHS scoring attack with 13 points and landed a spot on the All-Tournament team alongside Buffington. Dunn scored 12 points and came away with four steals. Sawyer Smith, who was a scoring star with 19 points against EAWR the previous night, took on the role of defensive juggernaut with four blocks.

Carlinville improved to 7-7 on the season after starting the year 1-6.

Staunton is 8-8. The Bulldogs went 2-1 in their respective pool, beating Bunker Hill 60-31 Dec. 26 and Hillsboro 51-44 Dec. 28. Staunton lost to tourney champion Calhoun, 54-48, Dec. 27.

Bunker Hill stuns Gillespie at the buzzer

The final day of the Carlinville Holiday Tournament was packed with thrillers Dec. 29. All four boys’ contests came down to the final possession and Bunker Hill got the drama started as the Minutemen walked off the Gillespie Miners, 71-69, on a 10-foot buzzer-beating jumper by Jack Wilcox in the seventh place game.

After Gillespie came roaring back from a 38-25 halftime deficit to tie the game with 12 seconds left, Bunker Hill leading scorer Cole Yates found Wilcox on a perfectly-placed pass to the left block, saving the game for Bunker Hill and giving the Minutemen their first win since Nov. 22.

Yates scorched the Miners with 30 points with Will Manar adding 19 tallies in the victory.

Bunker Hill improved to 3-13 on the year and dropped Gillespie to 4-12.

All-Tournament team
Conner Longnecker-Calhoun
Jack Zipprich-Calhoun
Lane Eilerman-Calhoun
Tate Dobrinich-Litchfield
Keenan Powell-Litchfield
Dominic Alepra-Carlinville
Brady Buffington-Staunton
Devon Green-East Alton-Wood River

This year’s Carlinville Holiday All-Tournament boys’ team featured, from left, Keenan Powell (Litchfield), Tate Dobrinich (Litchfield), Dominic Alepra (Carlinville), Braden Buffington (Staunton), Jack Zipprich (Calhoun) Lane Eilerman (Calhoun) and Conner Longnecker (Calhoun). Photo contributed.